Prelude to a Spring Frock

At the beginning of the year, I boldly proclaimed I was going to be designing sweaters, and I would move this project forward by having a different model for each month. January was great. I created a piece for Beth Nordlund which placed in the top five at Object Runway–an alternative fashion show–here in Anchorage.

I met with Ms. February and began to design a sweater for her. And then I stalled out. The studio remodel, art business, and quilting took center stage. February became March and March became April, and I still had not stitched any new sweaters.

I began to realize that I was letting fear get in the way of this process. I wasn’t creating sweaters, because I was afraid I was going to fail. And the reason I thought I was going to fail was that I knew I still needed to improve my pattern making skills.

And the way to improve my pattern making skills was to make sweaters! Do you see the stupidity of where I was at?

How to get to the other side of this problem became the subject for thought this past week.

Why did I want to make these sweaters in the first place?

When I started to think about this, I realized my initial sweater making was inspired by an urge to make my own fashion that worked in this climate.

Andrea Zittel who is one of the artists featured on the PBS series ART21 made a big impression on me when Walt and I watched the episode which featured her work.

I may be getting this wrong, but I see Andrea’s work as being experienced based art–in particular she is interested in controling her enviroment and seeing what happens when she does. She creates habitats that are minimalistic but functional. For example, she uses only bowls. Small ones for drinking, big ones for salads. It makes sense–eveything we eat fits into bowls–why have plates and cups if all you need are bowls? That is the question she is asking. If you’ve got 15 minutes, watch this. It really gives you something to think about.

One thing Andrea Zittel  has done for years is the Uniform Project–she wears one garment for four months straight and then wears another for four months straight. Essentially she changes her clothes seasonally instead of daily. She started out with rectangles and then moved on to making garments from strands–crocheting her clothes.

This idea really resonated with me. I began to think I should make my own clothes that were beautiful and functional for our enviroment. I would wear only what I could make.

That was really the original idea–use repurposed felted old wool sweaters to make clothing for myself. And then I got overly excited as I always do when I make something new. And I thought I could make them to sell. Which will happen, once I get my pattern making skills up to speed.

I made many sweaters last fall, but I wore only four of them–day in and day out. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this. The sweaters fit me perfectly, kept my body at a very comfortable temperature, and looked good. They were all the same style, which was a bit boring, but I still would rather wear them then something else.

It makes sense on so many levels. Take old wool sweaters, felt them, stitch them into something new, and then wear them in warmth, comfort, and style.

And then I read an article about artist Sonya Philip and 100 Acts of Sewing. Sonya decided that even though she did not know how to sew, she was going to make 100 dresses and wear them. These hundred dresses became an exhibition and a calling for Sonya who nows teaches dress making classes across the nation.

Here is a quote from an online article about Sonya’s work, “When we make clothes, we empower ourselves, rather than just passively consuming fast fashion,” she says, using a term that aligns factory-made clothes with fast food. “Experimentation and failure became part of my process.”

Okay–I took those words as a direct message to me about my work. Accept experimentation and failure. Make it part of my process. Do the work. Begin again.

And so I did.

If you are interested in reading more about my journey with sweaters, here are some links to older posts.

The Year of the Sweater
Down and Dirty Sweater Narrative
Hunting and Felting Part I
Hunting and Felting Part II
How to Fillet a Sweater
Queen of the North Goes to the Alamo


This entry was published on April 13, 2013 at 2:41 PM. It’s filed under ArctiCouture and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

One thought on “Prelude to a Spring Frock

  1. Pingback: A Spring Frock | Maria Shell

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